Although this should have been ingrained in every marketer´s DNA for years, however, with all the data, tech, and buzzwords flying around, one of the biggest marketing challenges of 2017 will be to stay calm, focused, and to be obsessed with the only one that matters: Your customer!
How to identify her, to reach her, to engage her, to make her purchase, to have her stay loyal, to make her to recommend you, and to have her even re-purchase more of your products in the future? There is a certain risk that (marketing) managers – more than ever – get confused and fall into the trap of mixing up data-driven insights with a real customer-centric business philosophy. Whilst data will be an extremely crucial element of marketing in 2017 and beyond, it’s quite a challenge to filter out valuable information from the enormous volume of data available.
Therefore successful companies and brands don´t worship the data gods for the sake of it; instead they have a comprehensive and deeply rooted digital transformation strategy in place which is flanked by a crystal clear marketing action plan. Enhanced and lived by every employee of the organization and not only by a chief digital officer who very often is floating around the company in search for a home base.
Omnichannel marketing, i.e. the ability to offer a continuous brand experience across shopping formats and devices, has in recent years been mostly interrupted and poorly delivered offline: When shoppers are in brick-and-mortar stores and face demotivated (or no) staff, waste time standing in line, do not find the products they´re looking for, feel not stimulated to buy – or even worse – do not have the impression of being welcome and appreciated. In other words: Many brands and retailers have gotten much better at matching their mobile app the responsive design of their website than creating an engaging and brand-building look, feel, and convenience inside their stores.
According to Nielsen´s Global Retail Growth Report, e.g. 46% of shoppers around the world say that grocery shopping is something they try to spend as little time as possible doing. Less than half of global respondents (49%) believe their main grocery retailer always or mostly communicates with them in a relevant way. Why would you as a brand or retailer not want to exchange with shoppers, have them experience (feel, touch, smell) your products, have them express their socializing needs and desires… in real stores? And although it´s common knowledge that we all dislike waiting at traditional check-out counters, after more than a decade the supermarket industry is still testing self-checkout kiosks (except for the UK where it went mainstream). Instead tech and retailing company Amazon launched in December 2016 a store called Amazon GO which works differently and empowers customers: Shoppers simply use an app, also called Amazon GO, to automatically add the products they buy to a digital shopping cart. Then they can walk out of the building without waiting in a checkout line.
Top marketers will need to become bolder and more focused again when thinking about how to deliver real-life-brand experiences. As a basic, and as such no new news, brands should continue to invest in exclusive in-store promotions e.g. through beacons technology which sends data to smartphones via bluetooth.
Top marketers, however, go a step further and continue to drive state-of-the-art technology into “connected” brick-and-mortar stores – e.g. installing smart mirrors or smart fittings rooms of suppliers such as KineticCafe or Oak Labs – which excite shoppers and deliver real value. If you are in the lifestyle or FMCG business, you might want to talk with Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store manager in New York City who has started testing a new smart fitting room.
It´s never been easier to sell your brands and products in almost any place in the world thanks to various online marketplaces. Top brands will go the next step in 2017. First, they will take full advantage of offered services of leading platforms like the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service for brands and merchants. Instead of you having to fulfill orders one by one, Amazon stores your products for you and picks, packs and ships them out to customers in return for certain fees (pay as you go). The best brands will also enter closer co-operations with leading e-commerce platforms by establishing branded stores on big marketplaces, join their affiliate programs, share data, etc. Second, I expect ambitious and growth-focused marketers to enter new collaborations with online marketplace partners which either operate in specific niches (e.g. Etsy or Zibbet for vintage or handmade products) or which are well positioned in certain geographies like e.g. Alibaba or JD.com in China, Flipkart in India, Souq in the Middle East, Rakuten in Japan or Tokopedia in Indonesia. I believe that Indonesia will soon become the third biggest e-commerce nation behind China and India; particularly in the Consumer Packed Goods sector. Already now it has established itself as one of Asia´s foremost mobile-first countries with more than 70% of internet traffic coming from mobile devices. Are you already active in Indonesia?
In an era of ever increasing consumer emancipation and consumer co-creation, democratization of media, interactive experiences, fast speed and high complexity of constantly new trial and error (product) concepts, a major sweet spot for successful marketers lies in the intersection of human creativity and digital mastery.
Leading brands will use technology, data, and algorithm-driven models to beef up and to complement their innovation processes. In an economic and cultural setting where six months are already considered as a lifetime, it´s crucial to have your technical and human dimensions tightly interwoven to be able keeping innovating, updating, and optimizing quicker and more impactful than your peer group.
Let´s take as an example US sports and clothing company Under Armour which is facing pretty stiff competition from its two major rivals Nike and Adidas. Digital and data management made them rethink how to approach creativity and marketing. They have changed their process and start now with consumer insights and then try to develop unique experiences. One major outcome of it was the brand´s 2016 Olympics campaign when it outwitted competitors without having been an official sponsor with an enormous marketing budget. Still, they were fully compliant with the IOC´s Rule 40 restrictions.
Under Armour´s superb “Rule Yourself” campaign didn’t contain any Olympic intellectual property and nevertheless was the second-most-shared Olympics ad in 2016. The brand also ran live events, used emojis congratulating some winners, etc. According to Amobee, digital-content engagement around Under Armour on Twitter has increased by 83 percent since the start of the Olympics.
More than ever, a key 2017 responsibility of marketing leadership is to create a mindset, framework, and culture of innovation based on the willingness to become a data-supported idea and creativity factory. In this respect organizations can learn a lot from agile and bold startups. That´s why I have difficulties to understand Coca-Cola´s most recent decision to shut down its Founders Program under which the company supported young startups. One might hope that with the new CEO they re-evaluate that decision and understand that it takes time, rigor, and true senior management backing to integrate entrepreneurial ideas and energy across the corporation.
In 2017 top marketers will permanently and comprehensively tie back business and marketing objectives and actions to revenue, profit, customer engagement, retention, and satisfaction. In 2017 the best marketing departments will have performance-based scorecards in place which measure and analyze e.g. ROI of core business drivers like clicks, signups, downloads, purchases, stalls, etc and based on these will conduct weekly and monthly marketing reviews.
Marketers will not any longer just accept data from social networks or marketing agencies. Instead I expect them to demand direct access to the results through independent data providers like Moat which is the web’s largest digital advertisement search engine. There you can look up e.g. campaigns by advertiser, check where creatives run and how they perform (by using their tool Moat Analytics). This will make it even more challenging for marketing and advertising agencies which will need to thoroughly review their existing business model and reflect if and how they really add value to brands. One attractive option might be teaming up rather quickly with technology providers which are specialized in the interpretation and visualization of data as this will be a major need in 2017 for companies to better draw conclusions from data and insights (without the risk of drowning in the data ocean). Some very good data visualization tools are e.g. Tableau, InstantAtlas or ZingChart.
In 2017 Brands will try very hard – and some will already succeed – to create single customer profiles to track and target customers more closely. Meaning, no matter where your customers are, what they’re doing, you want to be able interacting with them on mobile, tablets, desktops, or TV screens. Therefore, it´s also the year when cross-device targeting will finally take off and as such brands will create a consistent user experience and enabling to re-exchange and re-engage with customers wherever and whenever they left off.
With the ongoing evolution of secure and encrypted messaging applications, brands should invest more in tools such as GetSocial.io or Google Analytics to measure as good as possible where traffic is coming from. In addition, and that´s a great side-effect of these apps, you and your teams will be able to safely and quickly share confidential information with co-workers, customers, and business partners without worrying that your data could be compromised. Interesting secure messaging apps are Signal Private Messenger (available on iOS or Android) , Gliph or ChatSecure.
Marketing departments will automate repetitive tasks such as website updates, mobile campaigns, emails, newsletter marketing, social media, etc. to simplify, to scale, and to orchestrate marketing campaigns within a holistic CRM strategy across multiple channels. Automation platforms and services like Oracle´s Eloqua, Marketo or Hubspot have become already more intuitive and affordable.
In parallel to “Automation“ and to complement their scaling efforts, I expect that in 2017 more and more brands will give in increased and reasonable pressures to rationalize their multiple partner relationships to reduce complexity and to benefit from consolidation. As a result, there might be some good opportunities for watchful marketers to acquire e.g. smaller research or advertising companies to strengthen their technology and data know-how.
To find and prioritize high value customers, marketers need to develop and embrace a very deep understanding of how to market to the right customers. Ten years ago, lead volume was by far the most adequate metric available to measure marketing success. In 2017 marketers will have access to excellent data sources and superior analytics which allow them to generate high value pipelines.
Moreover, I expect that marketers will try to leverage blockchains in 2017 to increase the organization´s security systems and to develop new products and markets. A blockchain, the technology underlying bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, is a shared digital ledger, or a continually updated list of all transactions. This decentralized ledger keeps a record of each transaction that occurs across a fully distributed or peer-to-peer network, either public or private. The end game for blockchains isn’t just digital currency; it’s a new digital business model and flow.
As such, a blockchain goes far beyond the “cryptocurrency” application. It has the ability to disrupt financial services (banks, insurances, clearing houses, etc.), health care, music and publishing industries (e.g. royalty and content management), energy, etc.
When it comes to the number of connected devices, which form the basis of the Internet of Things (IoT), the current count is somewhere between Gartner´s estimated 6.4 billion (which doesn’t include smartphones, tablets, and computers) and IHS’s estimate of 17.7 billion (with all such devices included). IHS forecasts for 2017 an installed base of 20.4 billion devices (and more than 30 billion in 2020). In 2017, more than ever, marketers will be able taking advantage of the “smartness movement:“ From smart cities to smart things like sensors, clothes, beacons, etc.
While the IoT creates a bridge between new technology and older objects, it also creates a ripple effect that molds new technology. The broad adoption of the IoT will also drive platform as a service (PaaS) (PaaS) utilization. Gartner forecasts that by by 2020 more than 50 percent of all new applications developed on PaaS will be IoT-centric.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no science fiction (any longer). Today AI technologies – such as deep learning, language processing, causal reasoning, machine learning, robotics, etc. – are used almost everywhere. They create insights from data and then act automatically on them. In consequence, every marketer should have at least a basic understanding of the main AI technologies and how they can help her to make the company´s products and services better; based on an in-depth understanding of consumer and behavioral data resulting in a far more granular personalization of the customer experience.
Are you talking to a human or a bot to inquire about the status of your ordered bottles of wine, to get latest sports news updates, to get your hotel reservation confirmed, etc.? If you can’t tell, then the bot is working as planned. Although still early days, chatbot technology has become much more sophisticated in the past 12 months. A pretty good example is Facebook which in early July 2016 announced that there were 11,000 bots on Messenger and over 23,000 developers, already two months after having opened the platform. To get more tips, case studies and a special Q&A series with some of the businesses and brands who have already built bots for Facebook Messenger click here on www.messengerblog.com or have a look at a short clip featuring Facebook´s CEO Mark Zuckerberg who explains how people can now order flowers from 1-800-Flowers “without having to call 1-800-Flowers” during the company’s F8 conference in San Francisco on April 12, 2016.
In 2017, fueled by the adoption of chatbots, major messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger , WeChat (800 million users!), Twitter Direct Messages, Skype IM, Slack, Line, and Kik will continue to boom.
As Forrester stated: “Chatbots Are Here, But They Aren’t Ready To Replace Apps Or Humans.“ Chatbots will define the future of messaging apps; stimulated by the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning that will tailor brand experiences to fit each person that interacts with your organization.
2017 will see a further acceleration and stimulating competition among the major tech companies and their respective voice- and AI-enabled Virtual Assistants like Amazon´s Alexa, Apples Siri, Microsoft´s Cortana, and Google´s Assistant.
Amazon e.g. suggests that the number of skills in the Alexa Skills Marketplace has increased from about 100 at the beginning of 2016 to more than 5,000 today. Currently Alexa is found primarily in the Echo, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet devices. But developers are actively working to expand the virtual assistant’s reach to other devices. As a brand you should develop applications (skills) for categories such as smart home, food and drink, lifestyle, communications, mobility and transport, etc. In addition, for smaller companies and developers – or if you have an exciting idea – it might be an attractive option to apply for the Alexa Fund. It provides up to $100 million in investments to fuel voice technology innovation. Whether that’s creating new Alexa capabilities with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), building devices that use Alexa for new and novel voice experiences using the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), or something else.
Still propelled by the phenomenal success of Pokémon GO, in 2017 we’ll see the accelerated rise of Augmented and Virtual Reality (VR).
Although in the meantime enthusiasm for Pokémon GO has significantly slowed down, without doubt it has proved in an impressive manner that apps are far from dead or would not be working. It also underlined that brands and developers will need to team up more effectively to develop content that people find engaging and love. Driven by Pokémon GO, Augmented Reality will activate consumers in masse this year. It has opened up new engagement and revenue opportunities for the entire app ecosystem by having shown a model between online and offline. Innovative brands and businesses (of them many small and local ones) will be able to piggy-back on its approach e.g. by increasing foot traffic to their venues and recruiting new customers with similarly apps and products.
Also Virtual Reality has already started its quest to capture the mass market. There exist now well accepted basic and inexpensive smartphone-compatible VR headsets like Google Cardboard, the pretty impressive headsets of Homido or Samsung Gear VR which many consumers have been trying. Unfortunately, the more sophisticated and immersive devices such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive – which currently offers the best VR experience – still require powerful gaming PCs. Nevertheless, VR will continue to capture big bites of an highly attractive market segment with its endless options for product demos, company walkthroughs, storytelling, staff trainings, etc. Besides gaming and entertainment, real estate, and 3D design, I expect that VR will get severely more traction in 2017 in shopping, education, and tourism.
A beautiful VR example is US retailer Lowe´s, which operates home improvement and appliance stores, and which at this point of time operates 19 Lowe’s stores with “Holorooms” that utilize Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. Customers can experience there what a new bathroom could look like, etc. They can substitute appliances and compare. Selections can be viewed either using the Oculus Rift in-store or at home with with a Google Cardboard device. Find everything here which you should know about VR and how it will affect your marketing.
PISD stands for Personalized, Immersive, Short-Lived, and Dense content forms.
Mass customization will fully transform into personalization in 2017 by reaching different types of audience members (or even individuals in its purest form) based on their behavior, preferences, and habits. 94% of executives consider delivering personalization as critical or important in order to reach customers according to a Forrester/PwC study.
To develop a real personal communication strategy and to earn the attention of customers, brands will need sophisticated data sourcing and analysis tools to target a more specific niche with a more specific topic. The best brands will develop new interactive ways – e.g. contests, surveys, infographics, polls, etc. – to get people participating actively instead of passively consuming.
By offering immersive experiences users will feel that they´re involved and contribute to something bigger. Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual reality (VR) as well as 360 degree videos are three major technologies driving this approach forward. Marketers will need to be more creative than ever in the ways that they present content. They will have to use multiple types of content to make their material stand out in a crowded marketplace. So, upload your videos not only on Youtube, but also on Vimeo, submit infographics to Visual.ly, post slide decks to Slideshare and do not rely only on uploading images to Snapchat, Instagram or Pinterest. Users should be able to share multiple forms of visual content via social media, which can potentially increase the reach and engagement.
In 2017, besides continuing to invest (which you should do) for your best content pieces into paid ads, with classics such as Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and Stumble Upon, you should also promote your content by utilizing amplifying networks such as Outbrain and Taboola.
What makes Snapchat so sexy and valued at $25 billion or even more? Well, the facts that it has a very strong position within the 18 to 24-year-old demographic, i.e. with young Millennials plus those in Generation Z (both very valuable target groups for many businesses) and that its content disappears. Like no other platform, Snapchat highlighted the relevance and value of short-lived (disappearing) content. As a marketer you and your teams should think very hard about how best to integrate short-lived content into your marketing and content strategy.
According to a study, the human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2002 to only eight seconds in 2013, which is a second shorter than a goldfish. As a consequence, when many consumers have a lower attention span than a gold fish, dense and compact content will be crucial for the success of any form of communication in 2017 and beyond. To be able to cut through the noise, messages will not only have to be creative and unique, but most of all worded in headline- and sub-headline style by making every line and word count.
Definitely one of the big trends and buzzwords for 2017: Native advertising is a type of advertising, mostly online, that matches the form and function of the platform upon which it appears. In many cases, it manifests as either an article or video, produced by an advertiser with the specific intent to promote a product, while matching the form and style which would otherwise be seen in the work of the platform’s editorial staff. The word “native” refers to this coherence of the content with the other media that appears on the platform.
Native advertising is expected to expand across numerous online platforms this year, since it´s a form of paid media which fits organically. Native advertising, if well executed, doesn’t disrupt the user experience, so users can’t differentiate between what is paid advertising and what is part of the site. According to data from IPG & Sharethrough consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than at display ads.
A cool example is Cadillac´s recent “Dare Greatly“ campaign. Its protagonists describe how they are shattering the status-quo and pushing innovation forward in their respective communities (e.g. in fashion, entertainment, technology etc.).
Careful: In order of not losing consumers´ trust and keeping them engaged, native advertising needs to provide real value and easy consumption. It must not come across as a “disguised“ ad to be effective. In 2017, the leading brands will carefully and smartly look for ways to weave their products and offerings into a larger narrative.
According to Brightcove´s global survey The Science of Social Video: Turning Views into Value report, 74% of consumers say there is a connection between watching a video and their purchasing decision-making process; with the average consumer now watching 49 minutes of social video every day. That´s why video content will continue to rock, e.g. with 360° experiences which were triggered some years ago by GoPro´s spherical videos. Some months ago, UK fashion company Ted Baker released in collaboration with Guy Ritchie “Mission Impeccable“ a crime-meets-couture-themed thriller – on its homepage, etc. The movies was entirely shoppable. Viewers could add items to their online carts with a simple click.
And let´s not forget Snapchat Spectacles. Snap, the company formerly called Snapchat, created with Spectacles its own wearable sunglasses (retail at $129) with which users can record 10-second video clips which are formatted for interactive playback in the Snapchat app. As a user you can augment the experience by putting filters to the videos, text, or stickers. In 2017, I anticipate significant improvements in immersive devices (see section on AR and VR) as well as software giving brands more options to engage users in exciting video content.
When thinking of live streaming video which allows marketers to strongly connect with consumers on the fly, you need to focus first and foremost on the crème de la crème of video-sharing sites “YouTube“ which now has over a billion users; i.e. almost one third of all people on the Internet. Every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.
Also Facebook Live needs to be part of the live video portfolio of any ambitious brand. It only launched in 2015 and therefore being still much smaller. All users can share now live-streaming video on FB Live, while friends and fans can comment the video as it streams. For example, the cosmetics brand Benefit has been running a weekly live stream every Thursday called “Tipsy Tricks with Benefit!” And even the The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) has taken fans for a tour through the museum when it hosted a Facebook Live Q&A with one of its curators using Facebook Live. To learn more about how to use Facebook Live to increase brand awareness and social following you might want to check out Tips For Using Facebook Live.
A few words on mobile video: We live now in an age of mobile video. Time for every marketer to realize that. Invodo reports that mobile video views grow six times faster than desktop video views.
I also expect for 2017 that “video customer service“ will get a lot of momentum for top brands, since it´s an impactful medium to ease customers´ pain points in an efficient manner (besides phone calls, mails, and social media).
Already in September 2015 the German Online Fashion company Zalando celebrated its MobileFirst Day when it presented multiple mobile first initiatives with various partners and vendors (Facebook, Instagram, Uber) and tried making its almost 10,000 coworkers to think and support “Mobile First.”
Whilst in 2015 and 2016 businesses mainly focused on ensuring that their web pages were optimized for mobile browsing, the mobile journey has been accelerating towards mobile apps – and luckily even small businesses can now easily and inexpensively build their own apps via services like GoodBarber or AppsMoment – and mobile payment services and apps like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Amazon Payments, Square Cash or Venmo.
According to Zenith’s Mobile Advertising survey, mobile devices will account for 75% of global internet use in 2017 (from 40% in 2012 to 68% in 2016). Mobile advertising will overtake desktop advertising in 2017, increasing its share of global internet advertising to 52% from 44% in 2016. Do you need more figures to get your mobile budget significantly and very quickly ramped up? Already during the 2016 holiday season more than 72% of Amazon´s customers worldwide shopped through mobile devices (shopping on the free Amazon mobile app grew by 56 percent that 2016 holiday, worldwide).
Having a mobile-friendly website or app has just been the beginning, if you want to reach a wide audience. In 2017, excellent marketers will create content that looks cool and works well on any device regardless of screen size and whether it’s an iPhone, Apple Watch, or Android tablet.
According to Digital News report, 47% of online consumers use ad blockers. Frankly, this number is expected to continue growing as consumers get more savvy about protecting themselves from ads. So, if your company isn’t utilizing influencer marketing yet, you better get started. Very quickly! While “influencers” always have been a relevant element in marketing, they’re quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to reach customers and clients. That’s especially true on social media.
Influencer marketing gives brands the opportunity to create word-of-mouth buzz through personalities whom consumers already follow and admire. When influencers are used effectively, they create natural ways to seduce a target audience. Los Angeles-based InstaBrand, which offers a mobile-influencer platform that connects companies with more than 100,000 influencers in their database across social-media channels.
In 2017 brands will increasingly rely on micro-influencers with high engagement in niche verticals to produce more organic and engaging content (to be used e.g. within native marketing campaigns). Take e.g. UK´s Pretty Little Things an online fashion start-up company which very successfully targets teenagers and twenty somethings with sassy, inexpensive, and glamorous fashions created with influencers like Lionel Richie’s 18-year-old model daughter Sofia (1.8 million Instagram followers).
Some thoughts on the marketing organization of the future. Many (consultancies) are suggesting that the (digital) transformation of marketing should be led by a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). I strongly disagree. If your CMO and your marketing team are not ready (yet) to tackle related challenges and tasks, then you as leaders better support and train/coach them ASAP. Instead of hiding your strategic and organizational weaknesses behind the function of a CDO. Even if you were lucky enough to find an exceptional candidate to fill out the demanding role of CDO (tech and marketing understanding, strategic mind and strong executer, change manager) and if you were to give her direct business responsibility (which in my opinion is a definite “must“ for such a role), then she should be part of the CMO´s team, and in charge of digital strategy and campaigns, versus being in a separate function or organization. She should closely team up with an expect Chief Marketing technologist as her peer to co-lead such initiatives.
The organization´s senior management team will need to create an organization free of department borders and a “silo thinking“ mentality. They need to kick-off and moderate required change initiatives. And over time, they would need to withdraw more and more and giving people freedom so that they can contribute and amaze them. Based on the belief and commitment of attributing individuals more decision-making authority, providing them with learning opportunities, stimulating virtual team work and global project work, and allowing them to self-organize.
The future of marketing – embedded within an accelerating digital transformation process – encompasses key functions from R&D, sales, finance, legal, HR to strategic business planning. Most importantly, it´s not rooted on machines or algorithms. It´s rather founded on the conviction and knowledge that people as owners will do whatever it takes to make their organizations, projects, and teams succeed.
It should not come as a surprise that for many brands the respective trust levels are low. In recent years, there have been numerous examples of consumers being misled by brands in sectors like food, beauty, automotive, the technology sector, etc. Prior to the internet age, brands could get away with these sorts of things easily, but now—luckily for customers—it’s not as easy. In a recent report the Rare consultancy puts the focus back on customer emotions and explored the drivers of true customer loyalty. There were several key findings: Loyalty isn’t functional. While general purchases are driven by price (81%), quality (80%) and convenience (55%), loyalty is about likeability (86%) and trust (83%). As a result, in 2017 top marketers will very strongly focus on emotional and authentic messages (e.g. via Influencer Marketing) to drive customer engagement (versus customer recruiting) and to try making them more loyal.